Indigenous Law Bulletin
Marrickville Legal Centre lodged complaints with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on behalf of all Moree Aborigines aged 8 to 16 and their parents in relation to the Children (Protection and Parental Responsibility) Act 1999 (NSW). The Act gives police the power to remove children under 16 years old from public places if they consider them to be at risk of being in danger of abuse, physical harm, or about to commit an offence.
The first native title agreement for a mining project in Victoria was signed by Gippsland’s Gunai/Kurnai people and Yallourn Energy. The agreement will allow the company’s Maryvale coalfield project in the La Trobe Valley to proceed, and recognizes the Gunai/Kurnai as the traditional owners of the area. It also provides for the establishment of a trust fund for education and training of local Aboriginal young people and a cultural heritage joint management plan which includes the setting up of an Aboriginal keeping place for items of cultural significance.
453 hectares of traditional Aboriginal land in SW Victoria were formally declared as the State’s first Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). Deen Maar IPA is the sixth IPA to be established in Australia, following Nantawarrina and Yalata in SA and Oyster Cove, Risdon Cove and Preminghana in Tasmania.
The Full Court of the WA Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by five Pilbara elders concerning the one per cent of the State’s gross annual revenue which under s 70 of the WA Constitution Act of 1889, should have been set aside ‘for the welfare of the natives’. Justice David Ipp found that the elders had failed to prove that past WA governments had devoted less money to Aboriginal welfare than stipulated under s 70.
An NT coronial inquiry into the deaths of four Tiwi Islanders revealed that the islands have the highest suicide rate in Australia. The national suicide rate of 13.1 per cent per 100,000 is high by international standards, but the rate for the Tiwi Islands for 1998 was 127.6 per 100,000. The overall NT suicide rate in 1997 was nearly three times the national average. Evidence presented at the inquiry suggested that the most important stimulus for suicide in the area was aggressive alcohol and marijuana intake, especially amongst men. Figures produced by the NT Liquor Commission showed that more than 400,000 litres of beer were consumed annually, mostly by about 600 men on the islands. When the clubs closed, domestic violence took place at an abnormally high level.
Ngarrindjeri activist Daryl Sumner unsuccessfully sought a High Court interim injunction to halt construction of the Hindmarsh Island bridge in SA, pending determination of his application for special leave to appeal to the High Court.
Nelson Mandela was made an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia.
Aboriginal delegates at the Fish Rights 99 conference in Perth called on the Commonwealth Government and industries to begin negotiations with Indigenous people over use, management and ownership of waters and other natural resources. Referring to the recent Croker Island and Yanner High Court cases, the delegates warned of legal challenges if these issues were not addressed.
A Darwin doctor, Anthony Page, described the lack of Aboriginal interpreter services in the NT as a ‘national disgrace’, and said that it was impossible to obtain ‘informed consent’ for medical procedures from many Aboriginal patients who do not speak English. He warned that it was only a matter of time before an Aboriginal patient would sue the NT Government.
A survey released by the Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed that Aboriginal people are ten times more likely to be imprisoned than the rest of the community. The number of Indigenous prisoners increased at 1.7 times the rate for other prisoners between 1988 and 1998.
A report prepared by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Taskforce on Violence was tabled in Queensland Parliament. The report identified extreme levels of domestic and other forms of violence in Queensland’s Indigenous communities. The State Government is due to respond to the report’s 123 recommendations early this year.
A 25 year old Aboriginal inmate of Long Bay prison in Sydney was found hanged in his cell. He was deaf, developmentally delayed and was know to be at risk of self-harm.
The hearing of a $20 million damages action brought by the Hindmarsh Island bridge developers against former Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Robert Tickner, Professor Cheryl Saunders and anthropologist Dr Deane Fergie commenced in the Federal Court. (see inside this issue).
Former Victorian ATSIC Commissioner Geoff Clark was elected Chair of the ATSIC Board in the first election ever held for this position. Clarke indicated that his first priority while in office would be ‘to return land to Indigenous people’.